Carmella Houston
Vice President of Business Services
Seattle, WA
NerdWallet ("NW"): Please describe your credit union and its unique difference.
Carmella Houston, Vice President of Business Services at Salal Credit Union (“CH”): We are a member owned local state chartered credit union with a focus on the healthcare industry in the greater Puget Sound region. We started in 1948 on Seattle’s Capital Hill and now have five branches and offer a full array of services to meet members needs including Member Business Services. We offer competitive products, rates and terms and personalized member service.
NW: What is the role that credit unions play in the small business lending space, especially in comparison with other lenders, like community banks?
CH: We have designed our business products and services to grow with a business: from a Salal Basic Business Checking account and a Salal Business Classic or Rewards VISA with mobile deposit capture to a Cash Management account with remote deposit capture, cash pick-up and delivery services, working capital lines of credit and commercial real estate loans. We are relationship oriented, if you have a question or a concern you contact one of a handful of people and we resolve the issue directly. We are make-sense lenders, if the loan cash flows with supporting collateral we’ll consider the loan request; we don’t expect everyone to fit into a box. We also offer free customized account analysis and financial review with industry average comparisons to business members.
NW: What kind of outreach do you do to bring your name to the attention of small business owners?
CH: We just launched Member Business Services last January so we are building it up slowly. We have a presence on our website. We network with referral partners to include CPAs, bookkeepers, attorneys, realtors etc., that work with small businesses. We have done some targeted mailings and have a presence at many health care affiliated events and have tables at Chamber of Commerce events. I have written a couple of short articles targeted towards small health care related businesses that were published in their periodicals. We also have numerous community business partners that we have developed relationships with over the years that we visit personally. We are also open to suggestions.
NW: Does the small business lending cap for credit unions affect how you approach lending?
CH: No, we have a long way to go before reaching our small business lending cap and we also have partnered with other credit unions to participate with on business loans when needed.
NW: How do you see small business lending evolving in the next year?
CH: Small businesses are the driving force behind a thriving economy. I see a lot of opportunities for established small businesses with good business plans and sound financials to obtain competitive rates and terms on loans.
NW: What advice would you give a small business owner?
CH: Small businesses owners wear many hats and are typically great at their trade but often they are too busy working in their business to focus on their business. 1) Think strategically. Do a full review of your business and personal financials and revisit and update your business plan on an annual basis. 2) Be able to demonstrate that you understand your business, your competition and where you are financially compared to the industry average and you’ll be ahead of the game. 3) Develop a relationship with a banker who understands both your business and personal goals and can help you achieve them.

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